How Thomson Reuters Is Creating a Culture of Innovation

It’s not easy for big companies to innovate. As Steve Blank, Clay Christensen, and many others have pointed out, once firms reach a certain size, most of their resources (and investment dollars) are rightly devoted to executing and defending their existing business model. Moreover, the skills that are cherished and rewarded for achieving current results differ from those that aid in discovery and experimentation, both of which are needed to drive innovation. As a result, fostering a true culture of innovation in big companies is often an aspiration rather than a reality.

If this is the case in your company, then it might be worthwhile to look at the experience of Thomson Reuters, a $12.5B global information solutions company. The company’s strategy of fueling growth through acquisitions served it well for many years – but this approach also reduced the focus on innovation. While many managers were developing new products and services for their own businesses, they were not leveraging innovation across the enterprise, and some were relying too much on acquisitions to drive both innovation and growth.

To reverse this, senior leadership took a number of steps. First they agreed to shift funding from small, incremental acquisitions to innovation. In early 2014, they established a “catalyst fund” – a pool of money that internal innovation teams could use for doing rapid proof of concept on new ideas. The fund was announced on the company’s internal website and teams from anywhere in the businesses were invited to submit their suggestions.

To access the fund, teams had to complete a simple two-page application about their idea, the potential market, and the value to the customer (what problem was being solved). The teams with the most compelling ideas were given an opportunity to present and defend their idea to the innovation investment committee, which included the CEO, CFO, and a few other senior executives. In the first month, five “winners” were announced and then immediately publicized on the Thomson Reuters internal web site. This triggered a great deal of interest, and a steady flow of applications.

The company also took a number of other steps, driven by a newly appointed executive sponsor and a full-time innovation leader, to make innovation a priority. Developed after talking with dozens of people both inside and outside the company, these steps included:

  • Building innovation metrics (such as number of ideas being considered, and amount of revenue from new products/services) into business unit operating reviews, so business leaders would pay attention to the pipeline and commercialization cycle time of new ideas.
  • Appointing “innovation champions” in every business – i.e., credible leaders who would help their business presidents implement programs and processes to move the needle on the innovation metrics. For example, the champions created a common terminology for innovation across the company so that everyone referred to the same types of innovation (e.g. product vs. operational) and referenced the same stages (e.g. “ideation” and “rapid prototyping”). They also built an online Thomson Reuters innovation “toolkit” that employees could use to educate themselves about innovation, run innovation events, and work through the process of translating ideas into commercial opportunities.
  • Creating an innovation “network” on the intranet site where internal entrepreneurs could share their stories and ideas, and get connected to others who were interested in solving customer problems in new ways.
  • Orchestrating a communications campaign with blogs, articles, and video interviews with internal innovators.
  • Organizing an “enterprise innovation workshop,” with representatives from every part of the business, to identify and plan ten specific innovations that leverage existing company assets – and implement them in 100 days or less.

In the spirit of innovation, all of these steps were initiated as experiments to focus on learning, adjusting, and figuring out what would work. For example, the innovation metrics were sharpened as the definitions of innovation evolved, and the experience of the first few innovation champions helped clarify criteria for selecting additional ones. Also, all of these steps were carried out with as much transparency as possible, so that all Thomson Reuters employees would not only know what was happening, but could contribute to the effort as well.

The results of all this work have been impressive. Innovation is now one of the hottest topics in the company. The innovation “network” is the most visited site on the company’s intranet, and more than 250 ideas were submitted by employees for consideration at the enterprise innovation workshop, some of which are already being implemented. Several Catalyst Fund projects, which span multiple business units, also are now being prototyped and piloted with customers and most of the businesses have a robust portfolio of innovative ideas that are moving through the pipeline. So although there is still much to be done, and the jury is still out, clearly the momentum for innovation is building.

There is no magic formula for how big companies can reinvent themselves. The innovators’ dilemma is still alive and well and is not easy to overcome. But the experience of Thomson Reuters shows that progress is possible – particularly if leaders use the lessons of innovation to build the innovation culture.


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Open Innovation Key for Modern Local Authorities

The LocalGov website notes that open innovation has never been more apt than in the public sector right now, with the on-going pressure to improve efficiencies and services with ever-decreasing resources. The public sector must therefore be as open as possible when it comes to sourcing and capturing innovative ideas that can help address issues and improve services. This can even be within policy development, involving collaborative and dispersed groups from across a spectrum of society to collectively develop potential new policy ideas. But however it is deployed, open innovation should be at the heart of modern local government.

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Open Innovation: Getting Started

An article by Nicholas Bry on the Innovation Excellence website outlined and described a number of different open innovation processes: acceleration programs and innovation hubs; crowdsourcing and ideas contests; co-creation platforms; and codevelopments and hackathons. The article then went on to discuss a number of ideas to make open innovation successful including the role of intense dialogue and community branding; an open innovation hub; mapping the genome of collective intelligence; and the open innovation funnel.

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10 Reasons Open Innovation Can Fail

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The WeThinq website noted that Open innovation can be a powerful force. When hundreds of people collaborate openly things can evolve in all kinds of creative ways. That kind of energy is fantastic to see and ideas can spread like wild fire and comments come in by the minute. Hack-a-thons, idea contests, innovation labs – there are so many forms of open innovation nowadays, but there are also many times when open innovation can fail to solve problems or attract participation. Here are 10 things NOT to do if you want your open innovation challenge to succeed.

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An organizational competence model for innovation intermediaries

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to address the role of intermediaries in open innovation networks in achieving ICT-enabled innovations. The ultimate goal of open innovation networks is to create value for endusers and providers, and to share the risks and rewards. The aim of this paper is to analyse the competences that intermediaries in open innovation networks need to master and exploit during the exploration and exploitation phases of an innovation process. Design/methodology/approach – Based on 14 cases, all of which are examples of collaborative multi-party projects with a focus on ICT-enabled innovations, the paper inductively develops a competence model for intermediaries that can be applied at different stages in the innovation. Findings – The research shows that intermediaries can play an effective role in open innovation, provided they have the right set of competences. It can be concluded that the role of innovation intermediary is most relevant in the creation and development phases. Research limitations/implications – This study certainly has its limitations. The researchers were involved in several cases, which may have biased their views, even though an external expert who was familiar with the case and the work of the intermediary was involved to minimize the risk. Most importantly, the cases all involved of a single intermediary, albeit with many different private and public partners. The cases were primarily located in the Netherlands. It would be interesting to complement this study with results from other innovation intermediaries. Practical implications – The paper identified which competences of organizations in innovation are required, and how to balance the competences between the different partners, including the innovation intermediary. The study allows to link the type of goal of the collaboration to a number of best practices, including the competences and roles that are required at different stages. Originality/value – The paper combines the core innovation competences with the innovation value chain concept developed, and evaluate the resulting model in 14 different cases. The model is new and relevant in practice.
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Henry Chesbrough Named One of Top Management Thinkers

The Thinkers50 website announced that Henry Chesbrough has been named one of the top 50 manangement thinkers in the world. The Thinkers50 program selects the top 50 management thinkers every two years, based on criteria that include the global impact of their ideas and rigor of their research. Henry Chesbrough has written extensively on the topic of innovation, but he is best known for his work on open innovation, a term that he helped popularize. An adjunct professor at the Haas School of Business, at the University of California, Berkeley, Chesbrough was shortlisted for the 2013 Thinkers50 innovation award.

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Open Innovation Comes to Namibia

The All Africa website posted an article which noted that open innovation has developed from a buzzword into an established practice of innovation management. Sources of external input for innovation are plentiful, including market actors like customers, suppliers, competitors; the scientific system of university labs and research institutions; public authorities like patent agents and public funding agencies; and mediating parties like technology consultants, media, and conference organisers. A key aspect of OI is to connect the organization with a community that can assist with ideas, networking- and other skills; and subsequently OI evolved in such a manner that successful open innovation relies on intermediaries and platforms connecting an organisation with outside solution providers, so called Open Innovation Accelerators (OIAs).

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